When telecommunications, especially mobile telephony, hit the Ghanaian market some two decades ago, Ghanaians were only offered voice services on the go. Such a luxury. People were basically given a luxurious opportunity to carry their landlines – in the form of tubers of yam – on the go.
Then gradually text messaging was introduced. Then we moved to data – General Packet Radio Service (GPRS).
“Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution” or “Enhanced Data for Global Evolution” (EDGE) provided change and gave room for improvement. Mobile phone manufacturers started thinking smart. They made phones smarter, paving the way for people to execute basic office tasks, like reading and replying emails on the go, a reality.
The introduction of Third generation (3G) and then 3.5G excited many. Internet speeds on mobile devices improved greatly. The advent of 3G grew Ghanaians’ interest in social media Hi5, Facebook, Twitter etc.
There was an upsurge in data usage. Like Oliver Twist, the world wanted more speed and technology gave 4G! 4G is fast and those who have had the luxury of using 4G will attest to the fact that productivity is higher because it provides faster browsing experience unlike the 3G or 3.5G.
In March 2008, the International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector (ITU-R) specified a set of requirements for 4G standards, named the International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (IMT-Advanced) specification, setting peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).
Bottlenecks such as waiting for several minutes and even hours to download a file have been eliminated by 4G internet speed.
The world is getting ready for 5G and it is estimated that 5G internet could download 30 to 40 movies in a second. Yes in a second!
Before you get excited, note that Ghana is still struggling to make 4G internet accessible even on your phone! Telcos in the country are still providing 3.5G!
The Ministry of Communications and the National Communication Authority have done Ghanaians a great disservice when it comes 4G internet.
They have awarded, three companies – Surfline, Blu and Goldkey – licenses to start 4G data services in Ghana. Unfortunately, per available data, these three lack the requisite infrastructure to fully roll out 4G service even in Accra alone.
Note, the three companies have five years to provide data services to 60% of all districts in the country before they can provide voice services if they choose to.
Surfline is almost a year old and is yet cover only the capital, Accra. Even in Accra, they do not have full coverage. As for Blu, they are crawling and Goldkey is yet to start rolling out any infrastructue, if they delay they are likely to face some sanctions.
No telco – in spite of abundant evidence that all the nation’s telcos have already established infrastructures to make 4G easily accessible to Ghanaians- has been given a 4G licence.
Unfortunately, the telcos – Airtel, Glo, MTN, Tigo, Vodafone, and maybe Expresso, – can only do 3G.
Available figures from the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, as at March 2015, indicate that the three 4G licensed operators are really struggling to make their services available to Ghanaians.
Interestingly, the figures show that Ghanaians are still actively patronising data services from the country’s telcos.
Below are the figures:
Now 4G ready mobile devices are everywhere and if the government and the NCA are really keen on increasing productivity and efficiency through accessibility and usage of the internet, they should take a second look at the 4G licensing policy.
Efforts must be made to give licenses to the existing telcos, who clearly have the ability to easily and effectively deploy 4G services to Ghanaians.
The need for data is growing drastically by the day. Ghanaians are hungry for fast and reliable data for work and entertainment purposes and it will be a shame for Ghanaians to be stuck with crawling data service because the authorities have refused to license companies which have the resources and infrastructure to provide them with better faster internet which has become a necessity.
Ghanaians deserve better and Communications minister, Dr Omane Boamah and NCA boss, William Tevie should listen to their cries.